Tag Archives: Business

Exponential Times in the Information Age

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EXPONENTIAL TIMES: Extra! Extra! Etc. Etc.

I TREATED myself with a NAG (New Age Gaming) magazine the other day, which came with a glossy-ink-scented E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) supplement. The accompanying DVD was also largely dedicated to E3 and consisted of around two hundred game videos, trailers and GameTrailers.com awards.

I do not work for NAG nor do I sell their magazines. I was merely mesmerized by how far gaming has come in the last few years. We are certainly living in exponential times with the bacterial-like spread of information and new technologies.

Gone are the days of chalkboards and letter posting in the developed world. The sale and consumption of hard-copy books is fast dwindling at the hand of the Kindle and other eReaders. If Wikipedia were to be published as a book it would be over two million pages long. There are now even babies in the world named “Facebook.”

Exponential Times in Gaming
3D graphics has reached a point beyond comprehension five years ago. The number of gaming devices and vibrating motion controllers on the market this year can have one gleefully immersed 24/7 if you have the time. The exponential rate at which new game titles are being released has made the task of writing letters to Santa quite a meticulous one.

Exponential Times in Social Media
In 2007, one out of every eight U.S. couples met online. It is now estimated to be one in five. When television first entered our lives it took 13 years to reach a target audience of 50 million. Facebook took just two years to get the same number of people on board its platform.

Greater than the exponential development of technology, is the exponential availability of information. It is estimated that a week’s worth of the New York Times contains more information that anyone living in the 18th century would have consumed in their entire lifetime. The amount of technical information available is more than double every two years.

Exponential Times in Education and Employment
This exponential growth of technology and information is changing the way children are educated. Students are now being prepared for jobs that don’t yet exist and being trained to use technologies that have not yet materialised. It has also been shown that students who are online tend to outperform those who receive more face-to-face education.

This is of course changing the way that people are employed globally. It is estimated that 95% of companies that are online today recruit people using LinkedIn; around the same percentage of businesses use social media for marketing purposes.

Exponential Times Year to Year
In 2008, more than 200 million cell phone calls were made every second. This has roughly tripled every 6 months since. In 2009, every minute or so, a day’s worth of video footage was uploaded to YouTube. In 2010, the number of Google searches completed every ten minutes could have powered Las Vegas for half an hour. This year there are roughly 80 million Farmville farmers versus the 1.5 million real farmers. The moment you’ve finished reading this, most of this information will be outdated.

Below are two of the videos where you can find this information as well as more and more and more…

Exponential Times in 2008

Exponential Times in 2011

Kickstarter: Coffee Joulies and other ideas

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KICKSTARTER: Obtaining funding via social media

DO you ever get tired of being served coffee that is too piping hot to drink? Or leaving a cup of Joe to cool only to find that it’s gone Luke warm by the time you drink it? Well, soon unsatisfactory coffee drinking will be a thing of the past with the release of Coffee Joulies on the American market this week.

The idea of creating stainless steel heat-retaining coffee beans that keep your hot beverage at the right temperature for longer was brewed up by two young design engineers both named Dave. Like many budding entrepreneurs, Dave and Dave needed a way to fund the manufacturing of their product and turned to the Internet and social­ media to achieve this.

Kickstarter.comIdea light bulb is one of many websites that allows people to post ideas freely and appeal to the online public to pledge small amounts of money towards their project. Creatives are given a set amount of time to raise the funds they need and offer certain rewards to people, depending on the amounts they pledge.

The Coffee Joulies project, for example, was looking for $9 500 (roughly R66 500) to fund the manufacturing and distribution of their product. Amounts that could be pledged ranged from $40 to $500 or more. Returns on investment included being sent free samples of the product once made, getting a unique Joulies mug with “I backed Joulies on Kickstarter” printed on it, or even being sent a Coffee Shop Pack for entrepreneurs who want to sell Joulies themselves.

The Coffee Joulies example is one of many that illustrates the power of the web and social media to kick-start business ideas into existence. The two-man team managed to raise $306 944 (about R2 148 000) and has over 4 800 backers. Project creators also keep 100% ownership and control over their work.

Kickstarter homepage

Kickstarter.com is one of many websites that allows people to post business ideas freely online and appeal to the online public to pledge small amounts of money towards their project

Kickstarter.com is one of many websites that allows people to post business ideas freely online and appeal to the online public to pledge small amounts of money towards their project (image: http://www.kickstarter.com).

The only criterion for Kickstarters is that projects must reach their funding goal before time runs out or no money changes hands. This is done to protect all parties involved. Creators aren’t expected to develop their project without necessary funds, and it allows anyone to test concepts without risk.

Other successful projects include documentary film ideas, iPhone add-ons or accessories, a magnetic vertical garden kit and video game development. Many of these have far exceeded the amounts needed and are over 100% funded. Pledging continues until their initial time frames end. I was also pleased to see a few South African projects on Kickstarter that have surpassed their funding goals.

The creative market for ideas

Websites such as Kickstarter bring to mind other online platforms that also operate within the creative market for ideas. Idea Bounty is one example whereby large corporates post a brief for something they want — such as ideas­ for an advert. Users or creatives are then invited to submit their ideas for that brief. A sizeable bounty is offered­ by the client beforehand which is bestowed upon the person who submits the best idea.

While platforms such Idea Bounty sound all good and dandy, it just goes to show the value of a good, creative idea. This particular website has been known to offer bounties as high as $10 000 (about R70 000), but it’s a no- brainer that the returns on implementing such ideas most likely far exceed what was paid for them.

This comparison makes one feel far more approving of entrepreneurial, self-starting marketing platforms such as Kickstarter. The look and feel and user-friendliness of the website also make it that much more inviting. But you don’t have to take my word for it. If you have a great idea or want to launch a book or make a film and need funding, Kickstarter would be a very good place to start.

3D printing technology and 3D printers

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3D PRINTING: Producing abundance with tech

MANY fantasize about designing and building their dream home. If achieved, the feeling must be one of great pride and involvement. The sad reality is that building a house from scratch requires a whole team, and a group of wholesalers. For starters you would need an architect, electrician, a plumber, mechanical engineer and a surveyor, not to mention all the chain stores you would have to visit to furnish your new home. In the end, it may not feel like you were involved at all – apart from having dished out all the necessary funding.

But what if you could play a bigger and cheaper role in your home’s creation? Of course it would be wise to get the professionals to assess the ground and foundations, but when it comes to furnishing and decorating, the power lies in 3D printing. Most homes are, after all, built from the inside-out.

3D PrinterAs jaw-dropping as it may sound, 3D printing is essentially the creation of solid three dimensional objects using a large oven-sized printer. Objects are “printed” by laying down successive layers of material. The “ink” generally consists of molten plastics, but the more hi-tech 3D printers are able to use workable metals such as nickel, bronze, titanium and stainless steel.

Most 3D printing methods use melting or softening material to produce the layers. Others lay liquid materials that are then cured with other technologies. Some 3D printers can even reproduce themselves entirely.

3D printing3D Printers work by being fed digitised files or schematics. The design for a particular object is created using 3D modeling software and then sent to the printer for creation. Wikipedia explains the process thusly: “A 3D printer works by taking a 3D computer file and using and making a series of cross-sectional slices. Each slice is then printed one on top of the other to create the 3D object.”

Since 2003 there has been large growth in the sale of 3D printers for industrial use, but they are now finding their way into consumers’ homes (at around R100 000). The technology is generally used in the fields of industrial design, engineering, construction, auto mechanics, and the dental and medical industries, and is also known as the “architect’s dream tool”. 3D printing is even used for creating jewellery and footwear prototypes before they are mass produced.

3D printingOne fantastic application is the use of 3D printing for reconstructing fossils in paleontology. Ancient and priceless artifacts can be replicated with flawless precision. As exciting, is the reconstruction of bones and body parts in the field of forensic pathology as well as the reconstruction of heavily damaged evidence acquired from crime scene investigations.

Meanwhile in the biology department, 3D printing technology is currently being studied by biotechnology firms and academia for possible use in tissue engineering. Its applications are to build living organs and body parts. Layers of living cells are deposited onto a gel medium which slowly builds up to form three dimensional structures. This field of research has been termed as organ printing, bio-printing or computer-aided tissue engineering. I’m surprised that no one has called it “playing God”.

3D printingThe thought that 3D printing could be the means for producing abundance, excites me. High quality metal parts or tools could be mass produced and then donated to relief efforts or developing communities. Taps, tools, light fixtures, cutlery, hip replacements, 3D models, cogs, prosthetics and nuts and bolts could all be mass printed. Gone are the dreary days of the assembly line; 3D printers could even run overnight while the goods cook in the oven.

Fuseware Social Media Report

SOCIAL MEDIA: And how it is transforming business in South Africa

Fuseware is a Cape Town based social media research company that is currently creating a free social media research survey about the business case for social media in South Africa. They are asking the top influencers in the media and marketing industry for their views regarding this and aggregating all the information into a 100% free Fuseware report.

I was asked to participate in the Fuseware survey but wanted to open it to everyone to participate and offer further suggestions. The six most poignant questions follow with my own responses, but please feel free to contribute and get your chance to be heard! I will pass all comments on to the researcher that contacted me.

1. Fuseware: How is social media changing the business landscape, specifically for South Africa?

In the media industry, social media is the next phase of journalism. Media industries that do not adopt and embrace social media and networking into their production cycles will surely wither and die in the future. Situations where news rooms fight social media to get “the scoop” will never win by virtual of the speed and spread that is offered by services such as Twitter, Blogs and even Facebook. Media organisations need to learn how to use social media themselves in unique ways if they wish to remain a viable source of information.

2. Fuseware: What is the most difficult challenge of social media use in business in South Africa?

I would argue that the biggest challenge for businesses in SA is finding unique ways to make effective use of social media without harassing and bomb-barding social networkers with corporate spam. Simply posting links to any business website on every social media platform, for example, is not effective use of social media and will only irritate people and possibly taint the name of that business or brand.

3. Fuseware: What is your ultimate example of business success in social media?

News websites that have developed social media extensions for their product are proving to be very successful in SA. News24, The Dispatch and The Times are three examples of businesses that have made effective use of social media by offering something of interest and value that was not possible with their print products. Interactivity, commenting platforms, reader feedback, creating web-presence and the use of multimedia are all effective forms of optimising such a business.

4. Fuseware: Which companies in South Africa do you think are doing social media the right way?

The three news corps. mentioned: News24, The Times and The Dispatch. Also gaming and IT websites are showing huge growth in SA – e.g. Take2, and of course the blogging community and more specifically blog aggregators – i.e. Afrigator and MyScoop are making great and effective use of social media in SA. These will continue to grow for a good while yet.

5. Fuseware: How can businesses in SA measure the effectiveness of their social media campaigns?

It depends on the campaign really. Following trends would be a good start, but most social media campaigns can be measured by number of followers / subscribers and the growth of these. Keeping track of website statistics and engaging with their audience(s) is also of utmost importance.

6. Fuseware: How do you envision the usage of social media in SA in 2-3 years?

The internet today is defined as “web 2.0” – i.e. the “social web”. The proliferation of social media websites and services will continue to grow in the next few years and more businesses are likely to adopt social networking into their business models. It’s almost becoming a case of “do-or-die” meaning that if businesses do not create a web-presence within the next 2-3 years while their competitors do, they will risk losing a huge number of customers / clients / readers.

  • If you would like any of your own input sent to the Fuseware team before they put together their social media report, please add it as a comment below.